Let me start with a disclaimer: In no way is this meant to be an all-encompasing primer on the electrical properties of copper, nor to compare super-cable “X” to super-cable “Y”.

To me, one of the quickest and biggest audio “bangs for the buck” is upgrading the wire connecting your speakers to your amp/receiver. Chances are, unless you buy your entire system as a package, you will have to buy or make your own speaker wire and a little knowledge in this department can go a long way towards better sound.

Speaker wire, like other passive electrical components, is described by its impedance. Impedance itself has three properties: resistance, capacitance, and inductance. After consulting with an electrical engineer and long time friend, I can confirm that resistance is considered real while capacitance and inductance are considered imaginary. Not my words, his. Considering realistic cable runs of up to 30ft using good amplifiers, we will focus on resistance, as capacitance and inductance play a very small part when compared to resistance. Resistance can be minimized by A) decreasing the length of the wire, which does you no good if you need a specific length (from your amp to your speakers for example) and/or B) increasing the cross-sectional area of the wire.

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A reasonable example would be the fuel line in your car, the smaller the hose, the more work your fuel pump does to feed that engine and the less performance you get out of said engine.

Take for example your standard, run-of-the-mill bookshelf speaker wire at 22 AWG (American Wire Gauge). The actual wire (not including the insulation) has a diameter of 0.644mm and thus a cross sectional area of 0.326mm2. This is perfectly adequate if you are powering the speaker in your Apple Watch, but not so much high quality speakers. Now let’s compare that wire to a very modest upgrade (in price) to 14 AWG wire. The conductor diameter goes up to 1.628mm and the resulting cross sectional area to 2.08mm2. We have just decreased the resistance to about a sixth of what it was, making it significantly easier for your amp to drive your speakers resulting in a less strained sound. You get more Ferrari and less Geo Metro.

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How much does this upgrade cost you ask? I got my 100ft spool of Mediabridge 14 AWG 99.9% Oxygen Free Copper speaker wire on Amazon for $29.99. At $0.29 per foot, hat has to be one of the cheapest and immediately audible performance upgrades anyone can make.

Robert Ebeling III, MD